About Superconductor

Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Opera Review: A Piece of Fairy Cake

Joyce DiDonato sings a radiant Cendrillon at the Met.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The lighting department: Joyce DiDonata as Cinderella in Massenet's Cendrillon.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
At the end of the 2014 season, the mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato climbed atop a wedding cake at the end of Rossini's La Cenerentola, a role in which she caused a sensation at the Metropolitan Opera. This month, Ms. DiDonato returned to the stage of America's largest opera house--and to the ballrooms of a very familiar fairy tale--to sing the title role in Cendrillon, the 1899 adaptation of the Cinderella story by Jules Massenet.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Opera Review: Out of the Deep Freeze

Manhattan School of Music stages The Snow Maiden.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Forest from the trees: Shelén Hughes as the Snow Maiden.
Photo © 2018 courtesy Manhattan School of Music press department.
Nikolai Rimksy-Korsakov is one of the most important opera composers of 19th century Russia. A member of the "Mighty Handful", he revised works by Mussorgsky, taught Stravinsky and was a master of orchestration and melody. However, outside of a few concert works, the bulk of his music, most notably a long catalogue of operas, receives little attention. This made it all the more interesting that the Manhattan School of Music's Senior Opera Theater decided to mount The Snow Maiden, an enchanting fairy tale opera and the composer's personal favorite.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Roméo et Juliette

Charles Castronovo and Ailyn Perez are Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Everybody onstage: the masquerade ball from Roméo et Juliette.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
The news is that tenor Bryan Hymel has withdrawn from this run of Romeo et Juliette, the evergreen Charles Gounod adaptation of Shakespeare's play. Charles Castronovo is his replacement. Ailyn Perez, fresh off a mostly successful run in the Massenet chestnut Thaïs, is his Juliet. Placido Domingo conducts this first revival of the Met's staging by Bart Sher.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Opera Review: Lips Inc.

The New York City Opera resurrects L'Amore di Tre Re.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Skirt thing: tenor Raffaele Abete engages in some unlikely fetishism in L'Amore di Tre Re.
Photo © 2018 The New York City Opera.
The New York City Opera exists now through a strange disguise, as a kind of hybrid company presenting a few shows each year at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater and a few others at smaller spaces around New York. This week featured the company's first production in decades of Italo Montemezzi's  L'Amore di Tre Re, in a new staging by company general manager Michael Capasso. This opera is like a collision between every great love story: Tristan, Otello and Pelleas et Melisande packed into a lean ninety-minute score.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Concert Review: They Might Not Be Giants

Yo-Yo Ma tilts windmills with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Stop that you'll only encourage him: Yo-Yo Ma (with cello) and Andris Nelsons (on podium) and
the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Photo by Stu Rosner for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra played its third and final Carnegie Hall concert on Friday night. This venerable orchestra has found its passion and spark again under the baton of music director Andris Nelsons. As an ensemble, it is moving forward in a bold and forthright manner. And yet, some of its past tendencies appeared in this concert, resulting in a curios evening of variable quality.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Concert Review: Killing Mozart

The New York Philharmonic rocks Amadeus.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
He died for our sins: Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus.
Photo from the 1984 film, © The Saul Zaentz Group.
(Ed. note. Superconductor went to press last night before we had learned of the death of director Milos Forman, the man behind Amadeus. The filmmaker was 86. He will be missed.)

The New York Philharmonic's ongoing The Art of the Score initiative seeks to expand the audience of America's oldest orchestra by having them play in a darkened theater underneath movies with classic (and classical) scores. This week saw the most ambitious entry in the series yet: a set of synchronized performances of the 1984 film Amadeus that featured the musicians and the Musica Sacra choir accompanying the Oscar-winning smash. The performances marked the debut of conductor Richard Kaufman, and were enhanced with the addition of three keyboard instruments including a portative organ.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Concert Review: Tryst and Interruptus

The Boston Symphony Orchestra explores (part of) Tristan und Isolde.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Torn between two lovers: Andris Nelsons (with baton) conducts Camilla Nylund (center) and Jonas Kaufmann (right)
in Act II of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Photo by Hilary Scott © 2018 Boston Symphony Orchestra.
It might be his good looks. It might be his magnetic stage presence. It might be his voice.  Or it might be his rash of cancellations at the Metropolitan Opera in the last few seasons. Either way, tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who hasn't sung Wagner on a New York stage since 2013, has a fan following. They were out in force at Carnegie Hall on Thursday night to hear him sing opposite Camilla Nylund, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and music director Andris Nelsons in a concert performance of Act II of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Concert Review: The Coming of the Great Darkness

Andris Nelsons and the BSO arrive at Carnegie Hall
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Harvesters of sorrow: Andris Nelsons (left) and Jean-Yves Thibaudet (seated, right)  collaborate on The Age of Anxiety.
Photo from the March 23 concert at Symphony Hall © 2018 The Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra is flourishing under the leadership of music director Andris Nelsons. Ensemble and music director arrived at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday night for the first of three concerts this week, fulfilling their yearly obligation to visit that historic stage and offering New Yorkers a sample of the interesting new directions pursued by this brave and ambitious conductor.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Concert Review: Another Philly Championship

Yannick and company rock Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Yannick Nézet-Séguin at the controls of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Photo by Jessica Griffin for the Philadelphia Orchestra © 2018 courtesy Carnegie Hall.
It's not always easy to make the cities of New York and Philadelphia see eye to eye. And yet, that was the mission of the Pennsylvania city's most famous export on Tuesday night, as the Philadelphia Orchestra and their music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin (who is also the newly crowned music director of the Metropolitan Opera) played the last of this season's subscription concerts at Carnegie Hall.

Meet the New "Love Couple"

or "Whatever Anna Wants, Anna Gets."
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Jump shot: Anna Netrebko and hubby Yusif Eyvazov will sing 'Tosca' together at the Met.
Photo © 2018 The Royal Albert Hall.
The Metropolitan Opera has announced yet another casting change in the company's current production of Tosca which is scheduled to return to the stage on April 26. Tenor Marcelo Alvarez is out, replaced by the tenor Yusif Eyvazov in only his fourth appearance on the Met stage. He is Ms. Netrebko's husband.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Strauss Project: Intermezzo

Keeping up with the Strausses is the subject of this "bourgeois comedy with music."
by Paul J. Pelkonen
"Richard! Go compose!" Pauline and Richard Strauss in a happy moment.
Photo from the Strauss family archive, Richard Strauss-Institut Garmisch-Partkirchen.
"Believe me, I really, really needed my wife. I actu­ally have a lethar­gic tem­pera­ment, and if it were not for Pauline, I shouldn’t have done it all." --Richard Strauss

The home life of the composer Richard Strauss and his longtime wife Pauline is a regular subject of music from the composer's middle period. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the pages of his 1927 opera Intermezzo. This work plunges deep into the turbulent waters of the Strauss' long and happy marriage, providing an inside, if biased view of what life was like at a certain villa in Garmisch that, as its owner once boasted, was paid for with the proceeds from the earlier opera Salome.

Friday, April 6, 2018

They've Killed Mozart!

Mozart in the Jungle cancelled by Amazon.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Detail from The Death of Mozart (1870) by Henry O'Neill.
The popular and award-winning series Mozart in the Jungle has played its last concert. Today, Amazon.com announced that the series, a dramatic sitcom set in New York City that chronicled the backbiting, infighting and backstabbing of the classical music business, will not be renewed for a fifth season.

Concert Review: And Now They're Back (From Outer Space)

Esa-Pekka Salonen gets cosmic with the New York Philharmonic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Lord of darkness: Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Photo © 2018 the New York Philharmonic.
The New York Philharmonic is back on its home stage of David Geffen Hall, after an extensive tour that saw the orchestra visit multiple Asian countries in March. This week's program, seen Thursday night features a rare podium appearance from composer-conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and the premiere of a new work Metacosmos by the young composer and Kravis Prize recipient Anna Thorvaldsdottir.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Cendrillon

Joyce DiDonato stars in the Massenet version of Cinderella.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Joyce DiDonato goes to the ball in the Laurent Pelly production of Cendrillon.
Photo © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera has spent the last decade enthusiastically trawling through the vast operatic catalogue of Jules Massenet, the Parisian composer who represents the last gasp of French Romanticism before the dawn of the 20th century. Here they present the company's first performances of Cendrillon Joyce DiDonato sings the title role.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Opera Review: The Passing of the Torch

The Met's Luisa Miller shows a company in transition.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Take my daughter, please: Sonya Yoncheva, Placido Domingo and Piotr Beczala in Luisa Miller.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera's revival of its 2001 production of Luisa Miller looks backwards and forwards at once. It features Placido Domingo singing the latest in a line of Verdi baritone roles that the aging tenor has used to extend his already distinguished career. (It was also supposed to reunite the singer with James Levine, but the conductor's firing due to repeated accusations of sexual misconduct by multiple parties spoiled that happy event.) It looks forward in that its two leads, Piotr Beczala and Sondra Yoncheva, represent the cutting edge of a new generation of opera singers that are having their well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

New Opera to Tell the LeBron James Story

Der Klevelandkavalier planned for 2022.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Three faces of the King: a new opera will tell the story of LeBron James in chorus and song.
All images of LeBron James © The National Basketball Association, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat.
No NBA players were approached or participated in this story, which is for parody purposes only. 
"It's about time that there was a German opera about a real American hero." That's the rationale, (if we need one) behind the new opera Der Klevelandkavalier, which premieres in a special concert version at Severance Hall in Cleveland Ohio on Feb. 30, 2022. The new opera is a co-production with the New World Symphony of Miami. It tells the story of NBA great LeBron James, his rise to fame, his harrowing journey into the depths of Miami, Florida, his friendship and personal struggles with Dwayne Wade, and his triumphant return to Cleveland, Ohio to win a championship for that lakeside city.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Comment: The Wound that Will Not Heal

Good Friday morning, Wagner's Parsifal and James Levine.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Placido Domingo and Jessye Norman as Parsifal and Kundry
in the old Met production of Wagner's Parsifal.
Photo detail from the album cover of the
1994 Deutsche Grammophon Parsifal © 1994 DG/UMG and the Metropolitan Opera.
I have a "ritual" I like to do on Good Friday morning. I like to be completely alone and have a long, meditative listen to Wagner's Parsifal. The composer's final opera concerns itself with matters of spirituality and redemption, of the idea of unimagineable, infinite suffering that is only alleviated with the arrival of a savior figure.

Opera Review: Their Reverence For This Lovely Flower

The Bayerische Staatsoper presents Der Rosenkavalier.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Table for one: Adrienne Pieczonka as the Marschallin in Der Eosenkavalier.
Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier is his most beloved opera. Strauss fused rigorous compositional technique, catchy waltzes and superb vocal writing  to a charming, sentimental libretto by his longtime collaborator Hugo von Hoffmannsthal. On Thursday night, the Bayerische Staatsoper brought this opera to the stage of Carnegie Hall under the baton of its boss Kirill Petrenko. This was the opera companys first concert performance at the New York venue in its long history.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Concert Review: Thunder From the Alps

Kirill Petrenko brings the Bayerische Staatsorchester to Carnegie Hall. 
by Paul J Pelkonen
Conductor Kirill Petrenko and the Bavarian State Orchestra.
Photo by Christoph Brech © 2018 for the Bayerische Staatsorchester.
The Bayerische Staatsorchester, based in Bavaria's capital city of Munich, lays claim to one of the oldest musical traditions in Western Europe. Their press kit states that the organization first started playing church music in the 16th century. However, the first of two concerts at Carnegie Hall this week were led by a conductor who is very much a man of the 21st century: music director Kirill Petrenko.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Devil Came From Georgia

Superconductor witnesses The Death of Stalin.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A civilizing force: Olga Kurylenko as Maria Yudina in The Death of Stalin.
The most dangerous dictator in Russian history was Josef Stalin. And unfortunately for the composers, artists and musicians who lived in the Soviet Union up until 1953, Stalin loved music. His untimely but welcome demise is the subject of the hilarious new film The Death of Stalin by director Armando Ianucci. This review is not going to focus on the film itself, which is a startling, smart and well-written black comedy. But this isn't a conventional movie review: this is Superconductor. And we're going to talk about Comrade Stalin and the music in the movie.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Strauss Project: Die Frau ohne Schatten

Mysticism, marriage and a fish dinner: Strauss' wildest opera explored.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Fish for dinner: Christine Goerke as the Dyer's Wife in the current Metropolitan Opera
production of Die Frau ohne Schatten. Photo by Ken Howard © 2012 The Metropolitan Opera.
Of the fifteen operas written by Richard Strauss none are more complicated, more esoteric or more demanding than Die Frau ohne Schatten. Written during the First World War and premiered in Vienna in 1916, this was the composer’s sixth opera, and his third collaboration with librettist Hugo von Hoffmannsthal. Frau or “Fr-o-sch” as the composer affectionately nicknamed it (the German word for "frog") is a fairy tale for grown-ups, told on a scale that would make Richard Wagner envious.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Opera Review: What We Got Here is a Crusader

The English Concert performs Rinaldo.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Going for baroque: Iestyn Davies (center) sings the title role in Rinaldo as Harry Bicket (seated, left) conducts.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2018 Carnegie Hall.
In the already esoteric world of opera performance, staging the operas of George Frederic Handel takes the anachronism to the next level. At Carnegie Hall on Sunday, conductor Harry Bicket led The English Concert in the latest of their wildly successful series of Handel operas and oratorios in concert. The latest: Rinaldo, the opera that made Handel's name in London, the city that would become that well-traveled composer's permanent home base.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Opera Review: Ghosts Busted

The Met brings back Lucia di Lammermoor.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Crazy for feelin' so blue: Olga Peretyatko-Mariotti (center, covered in blood) as the bride of Lammermoor.
Photo © 2018 Richard Termine for the Metropolitan Opera. Used with permission.
Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor carries a certain sense of expectation. It is that prolific composer's most popular tragic opera, and even those who are barely familiar with the work itself have heard of its landmark Mad Scene and the image of poor, deranged Lucy Bucklaw (nee Ashton) descending a staircase on her wedding night, her white, virginal gown spattered with her husband's blood.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Luisa Miller

Placido Domingo returns (but not as the tenor lead) in Verdi's opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
We're the Millers: Sonya Yoncheva (right) is Luisa and Placido Domingo is her ill-starred father in Verdi's Luisa Miller.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera marketing department is trumpeting that this year's revival of Luisa Miller features soprano Sonya Yoncheva paired with a very familiar name: Placido Domingo. However, those materials neglect to mention that Mr. Domingo is not playing Rodolfo, the handsome young hero in Verdi's Luisa Miller, but rather the role of Luisa's father, a part usually taken by a baritone of the first rank.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Concert Review: Evil Never Dies

Judas Priest, Saxon, Black Star Riders rock Newark.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The mighty Judas Priest (l.r. Richie Faulkner, Scott Travis, Rob Halford, Andy Sneap, Ian Hill)
sacked New Jersey on Tuesday night. Photo by the author. 
Last week, I excitedly told a colleague who works in PR for Carnegie Hall that I had tickets for Tuesday night's Judas Priest concert at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. "Really? Judas Priest." I said, "yeah! I get to be 17 again!"

"Why do you like that stuff?" someone asked.

"Because," I answered with a straight face, "they write opera for teenaged boys!"

Concert Review: Follow the Bouncing Bow

Joshua Bell leads the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Joshua Bell leads his troops. Photo by Erik Kabik © 2018 Erik Kabik.
In the years before the 19th century, the conductor standing before an orchestra, baton in hand, was at best an anachronism. In choosing the American violinist Joshua Bell as its music director, the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields flew in the face of that tradition. At Monday night's concert at David Geffen Hall, Mr. Bell chooses to conduct most concerts from the concertmaster's chair (in this case, a piano bench) at the front of the first violins. Alternatively, he stood and led with his instrument in hand, using the tip of his violin bow.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Theater Review: The High Price of Beauty

Farinelli and the King on Broadway.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Tragic kingdom: Sam Crane and Mark Rylance in the titular roles of Farinelli and the King.
Photo © 2018 Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

Those of you who regularly read Superconductor know that the dramatic stage, that is, the one without an orchestra or singing is not the normal demesne of this publication. However, thanks to the good offices of my friend Amy M., your humble correspondent found himself at Saturday night's performance of Farinelli and the King. This play, produced by Shakespeare's Globe of London and written by that company's resident composer Claire van Kampen, opened on Broadway in December after a successful London run. (It closes at the Belaco Theater on March 25.)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Lucia di Lammermoor

The blood-stained bride returns to the Met stage.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
"Well, the bride was a picture in the gown that her mama wore
When she was married herself nearly twenty-seven years before
They had to change the style a little but it looked just fine
Stayed up all night, but they got it finished just in time." --Nick Lowe
Everything dies: Vittorio Grigolo and Olga Peretyatko in Lucia di Lammermoor.
Photo © 2018 Richard Termine for the Metropolitan Opera.
The Met revives Mary Zimmerman's controversial, deeply weird and really fun take on Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, for some the ultimate expression of the bel canto style. And yes, this is the opera with the blood-splattered wedding dress.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Opera Review: Mugging on the Boardwalk

The Met takes Cosí fan tutte to Coney Island.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Motel illness: Kelli O'Hara, Christopher Maltman, Adam Plachetka, Ben Bliss, Serena Melfi and Amanda Majeski
in a frantic Act I moment from Così fan tutti. Photo by Marty Sohl © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
How do you solve the problem of presenting an opera that forces men and women into the stereotypes of the 18th century to a 21st century audience? If you're director Phelim McDermott, whose dazzling new Cosí fan tutte arrived at the Metropolitan Opera on Thursday night, you roll the score in glue, dip it in glitter, and hope for the best. Mr. McDermott's staging is a co-production with the English National Opera. It moves the show to Coney Island some time in the 1950s. The effect is sweet, sugary and yet strangely empty, like substituting cotton candy for your dinner after a night out on the Boardwalk.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Concert Review: Dead Man's Party

Lara St. John and Matt Herskowitz rock The Crypt Sessions.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Underground music: Matt Herskowitz and Lara St. John entombed.
Photo by Andrew Ousley for The Crypt Sessions.
At last night's installment of The Crypt Sessions, the esteemed series of chamber music and concert recitals that takes place in the sepulchre of the Church of the Intercession at W. 155th St. and Broadway, host (and curator) Andrew Ousley staked the claim that the Canadian violinist Lara St. John was a "force of nature." The violinist, in concert with her performing partner Matthew Herskowitz, was offering something special in the house of the dead. The program was Lavuta an hourlong mixtape of fiddle tunes and folk-inspired music from Eastern Europe, covering a vast triangle of land from Moscow to Jerusalem to Budapest. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Concert Review: The Toast of Two Cities

The Philadelphia Orchestra returns to Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Yannick Nézet-Séguin leading the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Photo © 2018 The Philadelphia Orchestra.
There is no question that the Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin is the big man on the New York classical music scene at the moment. The music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra was in town with his troops on Tuesday night, for his first Carnegie Hall appearance since being appointed the music director of the Metropolitan Opera.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Throwing in the Towel

The Metropolitan Opera fires James Levine.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Facing the music: James Levine was fired by the Met today.
Photo by Naomi Vaughan © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
In a breaking story by Michael Cooper in The New York Times, the Metropolitan Opera fired longtime conductor and music director James Levine today, ending an era and a scandal at America's largest opera house.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

2018-19 Great Performers Season Preview

British orchestras and chamber music are the focus of Great Performers.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen returns to New York next year to conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Photo © Philharmonia Orchestra.
When Lincoln Center was established as New York's mecca for the performing arts, it became home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet. However, it soon became apparent that there was need for an in-house performing arts series, inviting international orchestras and soloists from around the globe. The Great Performers series is no longer the flagship it once was, but it still provides the opportunity to hear international orchestras in a posh setting.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Verdi Project: Macbeth

The composer escapes the galley with his first Shakespeare adaptation.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
In his later life, Giuseppe Verdi referred to the period from 1842 to 1850 as his "galley years". In those years, the composer applied his energies to writing thirteen operas (counting revisions) for the Italian stage as well as opera houses in London and Paris. Of these, one work stands out: his 1847 adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy Macbeth.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Concert Review: Night of the Blob

Pierre-Laurent Aimard at Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Pierre-Laurent Aimard and friend. Photo from the artist's website.
There is no question that the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard is among the most innovative and forward thinking masters of the keyboard working today. However, Thursday night’s recital on the big stage of Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium was a bit of a puzzle, challenging to both the artist himself and the music lovers, aficionadoes and reviewers in attendance.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Così fan tutte

The Met opens the Coney Island Boardwalk a week early.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
"Gee. No beer, no opera dogs..." --H. Simpson
"Wann fährt der nächste Schwan?": A scene from Così fan tutti with 
Adam  Plachetka and Serena Melfi, pushed by strongman Titano Oddfellow.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera. 


The Met tries its hand at Brooklyn gentrification with a new production of Così fan tutte set on the Coney Island Boardwalk. (If the reviews are negative, the next one will be staged in lower Manhattan, presumably on Park Place.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Concert Review: Unbowed, Unbeaten, Unbroken

Sō Percussion and the JACK Quartet play new works at Zankel Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Photo of Sō Percussion by Janette Beckman. Photo of the JACK Quartet by Shervin Lainez.
Carnegie Hall, with its multiple venues and well of donors is instrumental to the contemporary music community. Starting in 2016, the historic venue celebrated its 125th year with the 125 Commissions project, offering 125 new compositions in celebration of the venue’s anniversary in 2016. On Tuesday night, the subterranean stage of Zankel Hall hosted two important contemporary ensembles: Sō Percussion and the JACK Quartet, performing a trio of these new pieces.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Concert Review: The Keys to the Cipher

The New York Philharmonic plays Brahms and Prokofiev.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Working the keys: Yuja Wang (left) and Jaap van Zweden play Brahms.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2018 The New York Philharmonic.
The New York Philharmonic just went on tour. However, before he orchestra caught a Saturday flight to Japan last week, they played four evening concerts under its new music director Jaap van Zweden. The program, heard Friday night, eschewed the usual tripartite musical evening for a pairing of heavyweight favorites: the D minor Piano Concerto by Johannes Brahms, and the Fifth Symphony of Serge Prokofiev.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Recordings Review: A Little Old Fashioned (But That's All Right)

Unraveling Jonny Greenwood's Phantom Thread.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
One of the hidden messages in a dress from Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread.
Image © 2017 Focus Features/Universal.
On Oscar Night 2018, the Paul Thomas Anderson film Phantom Thread won only one major award: that for costume design. While it is not surprising that a film about a 1950s London dressmaker garnered that particular Academy Award, a listen to the lush, creative and emotive soundtrack (available on Nonesuch) to that film by composer Jonny Greenwood indicated that this picture may have had a shot at Best Score as well. (That Oscar went to Alexandre Desplat and his work on The Shape of Water, and it was a well-deserved win.)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Exit: Major Winchester

Some words for actor and conductor David Ogden Stiers.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
As Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, David Ogden Stiers (right)
torments his tentmates (Alan Alda and Mike Farrell) in the M*A*S*H episode The Smell of Music.
Image © 1970 20th Century FOX/CBS
We interrupt tonight's regularly scheduled Superconductor post for some sad news in the television community and the classical music world. Actor David Ogden Stiers died this morning at his Oregon home. He was 75. Mr. Stiers died peacefully in his sleep after a battle with bladder cancer, according to a report in Entertainment Weekly.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Opera Review: Her Time is Now

Christine Goerke unleashes Elektra on the Met.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Benched: Christine Goerke and Mikhail Petrenko as Elektra and Orestes in Elektra.
Photo by Karen Almond © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
There comes a time in the career of an opera singer when they are the artist of the moment. For Christine Goerke, the American dramatic soprano starring in the title role of Elektra at the Metropolitan Opera, that time is now. Ms. Goerke has sung this part on other stages (including Carnegie Hall) to great acclaim, both here and elsewhere. However Thursday night was a watershed. It marked the dramatic soprano's long-awaited return to a major Strauss roles on America's largest operatic stage.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Concert Review: The Long and the Short of It

Mitsuko Uchida in recital at Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The amazing Mutsuko Uchida.
Photo by Justin Pumfrey for Decca Classics.
Is it possible for an artist to be above criticism?

That question is necessitated by this week's schedule st Carnegie Hall, which features not one but two recitals of Schubert piano sonatas by the astounding Mitsuko Uchida. On the concert hall as well as on disc, Ms. Uchida offers a highly personal approach to these works. St the first off these concerts on Monday night, she offered three of the sonatas. These are works that Schubert had trouble getting performed in his brief lifetime. While they are firmly in the standard repertory for the solo pianist, a traversal of them is rare. The playing of three of these large-scale works on a single evening is a considerable feat.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Verdi Project: Ernani

The mature Verdi style emerges in the composer's fifth opera. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A post-horn: the instrument blown by Silva to remind Ernani that it is time to die.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Following the wild success of Nabucco and its follow-up I Lombardi, Verdi was on his way as an established composer of Italian opera. And yet, those operas, while having their positive points, do not yet embody the elements that one thinks of when the name "Verdi" comes to mind. Ernani changed all that. Its premiere at La Fenice, in Venice in 1844 was Verdi's first triumph away from the stage of La Scala and cemented his reputation as Italy's newest opera sensation

Monday, February 26, 2018

Concert Review: These Go to Eleven

The Vienna Philharmonic plays Ives and Tchaikovsky.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Gustavo Dudamel. Photo by Sébastien Grébille.
For the last 176 years, the Vienna Philharmonic has staked its reputation on the Austro-Germanic symphonic tradition, bringing the music of composers like Schubert, Strauss and Suppe before the public with style and skill. However, Sunday's matinee concert, the third of three this weekend at Carnegie Hall, the great orchestra eschewed the Mozart and Beethoven for a refreshing focus elsewhere. For this concert, the orchestra and current guest conductor Gustavo Dudamel agreed to play symphonies by Charles Ives and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, whose only common thread was the unconventional and innovative nature of their work.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Concert Review: Ain't Love Grand

Gustavo Dudamel conducts Berlioz and Mahler.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Dude abides: Gustavo Dudamel at work.
Photo by Chris Lee.
The Vienna Philharmonic gave the second concert of its three-night 2019 stand at Carenegie Hall on Saturday night. The program was unusual for this venerable orchestra: the slow movement from Mahler's Symphony No. 10 paired with a Berlioz favorite, the hyper-romantic Symphonie fantastique.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Concert Review: A Cure for Pomposity

The Vienna Philharmonic returns to Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Gustavo Dudamel (standing) at the helm of the Vienna Philharmonic.
Photo by Benedikt Dinkhauser © 2017 Vienna Philharmonic Association/Sony Classical
Last night, sitting in a coffeehouse on West 57th St., I noticed something odd about the lyrics of a song playing in the store. I turned to the gent at the next table and apropos of nothing, voiced my finding. That gent sniffed and said "Oh. That's some sort of jazz thing. I listen to classical music."

I thought, "Oh. He must be going to see the Vienna Philharmonic."

Friday, February 23, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Elektra

Christine Goerke sings the title role. Go see it.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Say hello to her little friend: Christine Goerke as Elektra in San Francisco.
Photo by Cory Weaver for the San Francisco Opera.
Soprano of the moment Christine Goerke, who has sung Elektra in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and on the stage of Carnegie Hall, takes on the towering title role in Richard Strauss' harrowing take on Greek tragedy.

Concert Review: They Dig American Music

The New York Philharmonic explores its musical legacy.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The trumpets, trombones and tuba of the New York Philharmonic.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2018 The New York Philharmonic.
There is a perception in the world of classical music that is a fallacy: that the music created by composers born in the United States is somehow inferior or lesser than the works of those composers born on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The New York Philharmonic has a long record of fighting against that ugly prejudice, through the commission and creation of works by Yankee composers. On Thursday night America's oldest orchestra upheld that tradition with the the first of three concerts this week that focused on the brilliance and innovation of orchestral music created in this country the 20th century.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Verdi Project: Nabucco

By the waters of Babylon, Verdi's legend begins.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Historic bas-relief of the Babylonian king Nebachudnezzar, hero of Verdi's third opera Nabucco.
Nabucco put Giuseppe Verdi on the map. The composer's third opera premiered in Milan in 1842. It was an absolute smash. Its success would not only alter Verdi's fortunes, but the popularity of its message and its famous chorus "Va, pensiero" may claim some credit for reshaping the political map of Italy. It was Verdi's music and the eventual rallying cry "Viva Verdi" (code for "Vittorio Emmanuel, Re d'Italia") that would help propel that collection of nation-states toward revolution and eventual political unity.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Opera Review: Making Assyria Great Again

The Metropolitan Opera gambles on Rossini's hazardous Semiramide.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Uneasy lies the head: Angela Meade (center) in Semiramide, with Ildar Abdrazakov (right) and Ryan Speedo Green (left).
Photo by Ken Howard © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.

Even in the rarified aviary of the Metropolitan Opera House, Gioachino Rossini's Semiramide is an exotic species. The composer's final opera for the Italian stage was written in 1823. It brought down the curtain on opera seria, the genre that had been at the heart of Italian operatic tradition for well over a century. Brought to the Met in 1892, it had to wait ninety years for a revival, only to be mothballed again for another quarter of a century. On Monday night, the Met finally revived Semiramide as a vehicle for Angela Meade, the American soprano who has enjoyed some success in the current craze for bel canto repertory.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.